Nether­lands’ cri­te­ria far too wide open

The Timaru Herald - - COMMENT&OPINION -

A cor­re­spon­dent (Fe­bru­ary 24) writes about as­sisted dy­ing.

He claims to have seen how the Nether­lands’ sys­tem works, two in­laws hav­ing had as­sisted deaths when in the later stages of ter­mi­nal ill­nesses.

He states that he feels that their sys­tem has the right checks and bal­ances, that with strin­gent con­trols peo­ple should be able to de­ter­mine their own time of death.

Per­haps the cor­re­spon­dent should ac­quaint him­self with the guide­lines of in­ter­pret­ing the 2002 Eu­thana­sia Act is­sued by the Royal Dutch Med­i­cal As­so­ci­a­tion (KNMG) in June 2011.

Those guide­lines now in­clude ‘‘men­tal and psy­cho­log­i­cal ail­ments’’ such as ‘‘loss of func­tion, lone­li­ness and loss of au­ton­omy’’ as ac­cept­able cri­te­ria for eu­thana­sia.

The guide­lines also al­low doc­tors to con­nect a per­son’s ‘‘lack of so­cial skills, fi­nan­cial re­sources and a so­cial net­work’’ to ‘‘un­bear­able and last­ing suf­fer­ing’’, open­ing the door to le­gal as­sisted death based on psy­choso­cial fac­tors.

The po­si­tion pa­per, ti­tled The Role of the Physi­cian in the Vol­un­tary Ter­mi­na­tion of Life, con­cludes that the ‘‘con­cept of suf­fer­ing’’ is ‘‘broader’’ than its ‘‘in­ter­pre­ta­tion and ap­pli­ca­tion by many physi­cians to­day’’:

In­cluded in a broader in­ter­pre­ta­tion would be ‘‘disor­ders af­fect­ing vi­sion, hear­ing and mo­bil­ity, falls, con­fine­ment to bed, fa­tigue, ex­haus­tion and loss of fit­ness’’ says the au­thors. ‘‘The pa­tient per­ceives the suf­fer­ing as in­ter­minable, his ex­is­tence mean­ing­less and - though not di­rectly in dan­ger of dy­ing from th­ese com­plaints - nei­ther wishes to ex­pe­ri­ence them, nor, in­so­far as his his­tory and val­ues per­mit, to de­rive mean­ing from them.

‘‘It doesn’t al­ways have to be a phys­i­cal ail­ment. It could be the on­set of de­men­tia or psy­cho­log­i­cal prob­lems, it’s still un­bear­able and last­ing suf­fer­ing. It doesn’t al­ways have to be a ter­mi­nal dis­ease,’’ ac­cord­ing to Dr Niewen­hui­jzen Kruse­man, then chair­man of KNMG on Ra­dio Nether­lands World­wide.

With cri­te­ria as wide open as this, why would the cor­re­spon­dent be at all con­cerned with strin­gent con­trols, checks and bal­ances in New Zealand?

Why not go straight to the in­evitable? Ti­maru

David Sey­mour’s End Of Life Choice Bill is cur­rently be­fore Par­lia­ment. A writer has ques­tioned a pre­vi­ous cor­re­spon­dent’s ref­er­ence to the sys­tem in the Nether­lands. PHOTO: STUFF

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